Showing Lifesaving Neighbor Love
THE year was 1559 of our Common Era. Prince William of the Netherlands and King Henry of France were in a hunting party on the outskirts of Paris. When, by chance, the two men were off by themselves, King Henry freely talked with the prince about a plan King Philip of Spain had formed to kill off all the Protestants in the Netherlands and in France. The executioners for the Netherlands were to be the Spanish troops stationed there.
All of this was shocking news to the Dutch prince, as he had not had the slightest inkling of such a plan.* Although himself reared a Catholic (with a Lutheran background), he felt keenly for all those Protestants that were slated to be slain. Most discreetly he betrayed no surprise nor any other emotion at learning of this murderous plan, for which reason he became known as “William the Silent.”
Before returning to the Netherlands, he was given specific orders as to his part in carrying out this terrible plot. But as soon as he got back to his homeland he aroused public sentiment for the departure of the Spanish troops from his country. In fact, he did all he could to frustrate that evil plan—all of which, it might be observed, started him on the road to becoming “the Father of his country.”
In particular William had been given the names of certain “excellent persons suspected of the new religion” with instructions to make sure that these did not escape. Far from carrying out such instructions, he warned those “excellent persons,” enabling them to get away. As he later put it, he was “thinking it more necessary to obey God than men.” In all of this, William was truly displaying lifesaving neighbor love.*
A WARNING BEING SOUNDED TODAY
Today there is a group of people, the Christian witnesses of Jehovah, that are similarly motivated. They are warning as many people as they can of a certain dire fate awaiting them in the near future. However, the fate that awaits so many today is not to result because of religious intolerance on the part of blinded men. Rather, it is because the righteous God of heaven and earth will soon take action against all those bringing reproach upon his name and ruining the earth. Fulfillment of Bible prophecy indicates that “the appointed time” is hastening on for Jehovah God “to bring to ruin those ruining the earth.” (Rev. 11:18) Yes, near is the time for the beginning of the greatest tribulation ever to occur.—Matt. 24:21.
Because of the nearness of that catastrophic event Jehovah’s Witnesses are echoing the angelic warning to all lovers of truth and righteousness in the domain of the world empire of false religion, “Babylon the Great”: “Get out of her, . . . if you do not want to share with her in her sins, and if you do not want to receive part of her plagues.” (Rev. 18:2, 4) Of course, it is not enough for these sincere ones to separate themselves from all false organized religion. They must also flee for safety to God’s kingdom. So the Witnesses keep preaching “this good news of the kingdom” worldwide.—Matt. 24:14.
That is why Jehovah’s Witnesses are also devoting all their efforts in helping sincere truth-seekers to obey the command found in the Bible book of Zephaniah: “Seek Jehovah, all you meek ones of the earth, who have practiced His own judicial decision. Seek righteousness, seek meekness. Probably you may be concealed in the day of Jehovah’s anger.” (Zeph. 2:3) Thus these Witnesses are obeying the parting command of Jesus Christ to his followers: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.”—Matt. 28:19, 20.
PREACHING AND TEACHING FROM HOUSE TO HOUSE
It is because of the nearness of Jehovah’s day of judgment that the Witnesses feel an urgency to point truth-lovers to God’s kingdom as their only means of escape. Since life is so important, it is surely showing love to aid people in this way.
Reports show that fine Christian conduct has helped some people to get on the road leading to life. As one Russian journalist, attending a Witness convention in Germany, put it: “Your conduct is your best sermon.” The Witnesses have found that standing on street corners offering Bible magazines to passersby is an effective way of preaching the “good news.” More than that, Witnesses are alert to find or to make opportunities to preach the good news of God’s kingdom to people they happen to meet in business contacts and when traveling, or by preaching to people with whom they work. The facts show that all such activity is also fruitful.
However, it is obvious that if Jehovah’s people limited their witnessing to these kinds of activities many would be overlooked who might well be lovers of truth and righteousness and deserving of hearing the warning message as well as the Kingdom good news. For this reason the Witnesses have embraced the house-to-house form of preaching. In fact, they have become so industrious in pursuing this method of preaching that it has become a trademark, as it were, of the Witnesses. Thus on a certain TV program a family group were shown responding to a knock at the door with the observation, ‘Most likely one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.’
Not long ago this activity of the Witnesses was banned in a certain Central American land. When the Witnesses appealed, the government official handling the appeal said: ‘Other religious denominations do not go from house to house the way you Witnesses do. Is this activity a part of your worship?’ He was told that it was not only a part of their worship but one of the most important parts of their worship. As a result the ban was lifted.
For pursuing the house-to-house activity the Witnesses have sound Scriptural precedents. When Jesus sent out his disciples, he commanded them to go to the homes of the people with their message. (Matt. 10:7, 12, 13, 42; Luke 10:5, 6) Furthermore, the apostle Paul told the elders of the congregation at Ephesus: “You well know how from the first day that I stepped into the district of Asia I was with you the whole time, . . . while I did not hold back from telling you any of the things that were profitable nor from teaching you publicly and from house to house. But I thoroughly bore witness both to Jews and to Greeks about repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus.”—Acts 20:18-21.
Yes, Paul taught in ‘house after house.’ While he no doubt called on those who already were Christians to strengthen and encourage them, we may by no means limit Paul’s words here to such pastoral or shepherding activities. Why not? Because Paul said that he was preaching “repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus” to both Jew and Greek. That clearly indicates that these were not as yet Christians. That he considered this a lifesaving work can be seen from his further statement that, as a result of his preaching, he was “clean from the blood of all men.”—Acts 20:25-27.
A PROPHETIC PATTERN
Corroborating the foregoing is the prophecy found at Ezekiel chapter 9, which foreshadowed the house-to-house activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses today. It tells of a vision that the prophet Ezekiel had some 2,500 years ago.
In the previous chapter the prophet tells of having been given a vision showing various kinds of idolatries and apostasies carried on by the Jews at their temple in Jerusalem. Then, in Eze chapter 9, Ezekiel records a vision of six men armed with slaughtering weapons and a seventh man clothed not in armor but in linen with a secretary’s inkhorn at his side. This man was told to go through the city of Jerusalem and “put a mark on the foreheads of the men that are sighing and groaning over all the detestable things that are being done in the midst of it.” (Eze 9 Verse 4) The six men with slaughtering weapons were commanded to follow after him and to execute all those who did not have that mark, yes, all those who did not groan and sigh because of all the wickedness being practiced in the city.
How was this man in linen to locate all those who were sighing and groaning? The Watchtower of January 15, 1972, explained: “Not just by going to the public square or to the marketplace, but to the homes of the people, going from house to house. In that way he would be able to hear their heartfelt expressions and decide whether they should be marked on the forehead or not. This was no speedy operation, by any means, but called for patiently and conscientiously going from house to house or from door to door and making an honest inspection, showing no partiality but marking only those who sincerely grieved at all the detestable things that others were doing inside the royal city. . . . he put the distinguishing mark upon their foreheads where it could be publicly seen by friend or foe.”
Even as it required house-to-house visitation for the man clothed in linen to discharge fully his obligation of marking those deserving to be spared from execution, so today it takes house-to-house activity on the part of Jehovah’s Witnesses to find all those who love truth and righteousness and give them the opportunity to flee to God’s kingdom.
What today would correspond to the mark that the man in linen put upon the foreheads of those deserving to be spared? Being marked in the forehead appears to represent the cultivating of a Christlike personality. Only by possessing such a personality would one merit being spared by Jehovah’s executioners at the coming “great tribulation.” (Matt. 24:21) A Christlike personality would be something for all to see, even as a mark on the forehead could be seen by all. Cultivating such a Christlike personality is repeatedly urged in the Scriptures. Of course, to mark a person in such a way takes much time, energy and means, but Jehovah’s Witnesses are glad to make such sacrifices. Thereby also they are showing lifesaving neighbor love.—Eph. 4:20-24; Col. 3:9-11.
Yes, important as is the first step of going from house to house to find those lovers of truth and righteousness who are sighing and groaning because of the wicked conditions prevailing, it is but the first step. Showing lifesaving neighbor love requires the servant of Jehovah to follow through by making return visits and conducting Bible studies. Such Bible students also need to learn how to pray, they need to associate with the Christian congregation and they need to apply Bible principles in their lives. In turn, they themselves need to share in letting still others know about the things they are learning. All of this should lead to their dedicating themselves to Jehovah God to do his will and to their being baptized. Such a course, it should be added, is essential to being ‘marked,’ to putting on the Christlike personality. And by carrying on this activity the witnesses of Jehovah are truly showing lifesaving neighbor love.
The accidental discovery of this plot by William may well have been providential, as there is no telling how much the history of Europe and the progress toward religious freedom might have been altered had the plot been carried out successfully.
Rise of the Dutch Republic, Vol. 1, pp. 239, 240.